What is irony? (with examples)

What is irony? (with examples)

A Lesson by Laura Maidah

Ever get confused about irony? We all do. Come on in!


Recently I was walking and talking with my co-worker, who happens to be a freelance writer and aspiring journalist. We were talking about the fact that our employers were providing us with a Thanksgiving lunch the day after Thanksgiving, and she said, “It’s so ironic!’’ – all emphasis and drawing-out of syllables possible used on the last word.

This is a smart girl I’m talking about. She’s a college graduate and has done her fair share of writing and reporting. And even so, she doesn’t know the definition of irony.

Merriam-Webster defines irony as:

1: a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other’s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony

2: a) the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
b) a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c) an ironic expression or utterance

3: a) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result; an event or result marked by such incongruity
b) incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony

A simple way of putting it is that irony usually signals a difference between the appearance of things and reality. For instance, here is how Wikipedia defines it: “Ironic statements (verbal irony) often convey a meaning exactly opposite from their literal meaning. In ironic situations (situational irony), actions often have an effect exactly opposite from what is intended.”

Confusion is such that there is even a website, IsItIronic.com, where you can post your own question about whether or not something is ironic. Readers will cast their own vote – you can see the percentages of the votes – and the website will provide the final yes or no verdict.

Here are some examples of irony (or the lack of):

Is it ironic that I posted a video about how boring and useless Facebook is on Facebook?
Reader’s Verdict: 93% NOT IRONIC; 7% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.

Is it ironic that the name of Britain’s biggest dog (until it died recently) was Tiny?
Reader’s Verdict: 75% IRONIC; 25% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.

Is it ironic that I can’t go to church because I have a theology test to study for?
Reader’s Verdict: 95% NOT IRONIC; 5% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.

Is it ironic that someone steps into a puddle and you make fun of them… and the next thing you know – YOU step in one!?
Reader’s Verdict: 94% IRONIC; 6% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.

Has Alanis Morissette spoiled irony for us forever? Perhaps my generation is just in recovery from her 1995 lyrics. What do you think – do you understand the meaning of irony? Do people around you?

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Posted 2 Years Ago

Once again, you've stolen from another blog. The same blog too. I don't really know what to say. The writer who takes another's work as her own is the worst kind of scum. The fact that this is a repeated offense angers me greatly. Can you even call yourself a writer?

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Posted 3 Years Ago

I was definitely confused, now it's cleared up for me...thank you for this lesson. :)

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Posted 3 Years Ago

Hi, me again!

Lucy came down stairs filled with excitement, the whole football team had descended on her for a pre-match breakfast.
" I would do anything for you boys".
Little did she know they had brought their creased kit and were hoping she would..
Does Lucy do IRONY?

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Posted 3 Years Ago


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Posted 4 Years Ago

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Added on June 24, 2012
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Laura Maidah
Laura Maidah

Arcadia, CA